Friends mourn student's death

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Andy Davis

Cathy Barrow, secretary at the Nontraditional Student Center, sat fumbling with her long scarf, unsure how to tie it, when Weber State University student Andy Davis happened to walk by.

He rushed in and said, “I’ll tie that for you!”

Davis grabbed and knotted the limp thing, transforming it into a fashion statement.  He put it back around Barrow’s neck and said, “There! That’s all you have to do.”

Many who knew Davis, who died Monday at age 31, share similar memories of him reaching out to others in small acts of kindness and grand gestures of service.  These instances led them to regard him as a very open person who sought to share his experiences for the benefit of everyone.

Davis, also known as Alexis Devo in his drag show performances, “lost his long hard battle with drug addiction,” according to an obituary written by his family and published on Leavitt’s Mortuary’s website.

Jen Killpack, a WSU graduate student and close friend of Davis, said that although he struggled with drug problems in the few years she had known him, his spirit always remained strong and his disposition happy.

News of Davis’ death reached many of his friends via email and Facebook, as it did Killpack.  She said by the time she looked at his Facebook wall, countless people had posted condolences, memories and expressions of love and thanks for Davis.

Davis was enrolled at WSU last semester but took this semester off and would soon be graduating.  He spent much of his time at WSU at the Nontraditional Student Center and at Student Support Services.

Carol Merrill, director of the Women’s Center, came to know Davis well because of the proximity of her office to the Nontraditional Student Center.

“He was a strong advocate for not being afraid of saying, ‘This is who I am,’” Merrill said. “He wanted people to feel comfortable with who they were and not be afraid to share it with other people, that ‘this is who you are, and that’s okay,’ and I really loved and respected him for that.  I think Andy will be missed by a lot of people.”

WSU senior Kalie Riggs met Davis through the Student Support Services program and got to know him this past summer when he began working there as a peer mentor.

“He was the kind of person that when I met him, I immediately wanted him to be my friend,” Riggs said.

In addition to being what those who knew him call a role model of openness and acceptance, Davis was a member of the International Imperial Court System, one of the oldest predominately gay organizations in the world.

His family wrote in his obituary, “His proudest accomplishment was being a member of the International Rainbow Court of Northern Utah.  He was recently crowned Empress, an honor he worked for 17 years to achieve.”

Davis was a prominent enough figure in the LGBT community that his death was mentioned on QSaltLake, Utah’s biweekly entertainment and news magazine for LBGT people.

Despite his achievements, those who knew him said that Davis faced many hardships not only with his addiction, but also because of the prejudices and biases others had about his lifestyle.

However, Davis used his involvement with IRCONU and his openness to share what he learned from all his experiences to help others.

Davis learned about the She’s the Man, He’s the Woman Drag Show and Dance that WSU’s Gay-Straight Alliance club was planning for Halloween Weekend, and he wanted to perform.

“He and some members from IRCONU came and performed,” said GSA president Kelsey Capoferri.

“They were totally professional.  They had their numbers done professionally, and they were all so beautiful, and they performed beautifully.”

Killpack said that in addition to his many charity-supported drag shows, he offered service by being friendly to everyone.

“When you’re gay and you’ve been through things in life . . . you want to reach out and want to help people, so they don’t have to go through the same stuff you went through,” Killpack said.

“That’s a big part of why he did all the great things he did.”

Merrill said that when Davis faced prejudices, he was proactive and tried to build bridges instead of getting offended.

“He was very open to educating other people in a way that was informative, that wasn’t reactive,” Merrill said. “He was more like, ‘Let me help you understand that I’m just like you and understand that I have the same emotions as you; I’m not any different.’”

Davis’ family invites all to join them in paying respects on Saturday between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at Leavitt’s Mortuary, 836 36th St., Ogden.

In lieu of flowers, anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so at Golden West Credit Union or Wells Fargo Bank under the name Andy Davis/Alexis Devo.